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What Does “Qualified” Mean?


With the announcement by David Souter that he intends to retire from SCOTUS at the end of this term the usual suspects are getting their panties in a twist over the possibility that white men will be discriminated against in the selection of a replacement.  They are worried that gender, race and/or sexual orientation will matter more than qualifications, raising the spectre of an unqualified vajajay-possessing “w-word” getting the job.  That’s bullshit!

First of all, “qualified” is a vague term.

There are many people with the education and experience to be appointed to SCOTUS, including most federal appellate justices, many state appellate justices, as well as some scholars and politicians.  As far as education we would expect someone who graduated from a nationally accredited law school.  That would imply that they also had at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

We would expect that any appointee would have practiced law for a substantial period, generally including some time as an appellate justice on the state or federal bench.  There are notable exceptions.  Earl Warren was never a judge, prior to his SCOTUS appointment he was a district attorney, Attorney General and Governor of California.  Thurgood Marshall was chief counsel for the NAACP and won a number of civil rights cases including Brown v. Board of Education.

Those are the qualifications we would expect, and many people meet that threshold.  Age and ideology are desirable characteristics, not qualifications. But even if you narrowed the “qualified” group by considering only candidates who are moderate to liberal and within a range of 40 to 60 years of age, there is still a sizable group to choose from.

Since all of that group are “qualified” it is perfectly appropriate to consider characteristics like gender, race and/or sexual orientation in order to provide more diversity to SCOTUS.  At that point what other characteristics matter more?

In our 200+ year history we have had two women and two black justices on the highest court in our land.  There have been no hispanics or asians, nor any known gays or lesbians.  It’s time for a change.

Does the name of the school on their diploma matter more than the body of work they have completed in the two to three decades since they graduated?  Does it really matter that much what grades and/or honors they recieved, or what student offices they held?

Keep in mind that institutional sexism and racism will have affected the educational and professional careers of women and minorities, and doubly so minority women.  Their gender and/or race made it harder to get into good schools, get hired, promoted, and/or receive recognition.  To use that against them now is to perpetuate the discrimination.

But if you think white men in this country are being discriminated against then I have a bridge I want to sell you.

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Single-Payer: A Laugh Riot (laugh along with Max Baucus)

I was already wound up when I got to my parent’s house yesterday.

My sister had posted a link to her Facebook page and I accidentally read it before I had my coffee:

More for Medicare?

McClary is one of millions of people who might be eligible for a controversial proposal allowing those between 55 and 64 to buy coverage in Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly, before turning 65. The plan, part of a blueprint for health reform written by Max Baucus (D., Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, would help people like McClary, who buy their own insurance or are uninsured.

. . .

Under the Baucus plan, the Medicare expansion would end once a comprehensive health-care overhaul – one that guaranteed insurance to all Americans – was in place.

. . .

Politically, the idea stands more of a chance as a temporary transition measure, as Baucus proposes, than as a permanent option if broader health reform fails, says Len Nichols, an economist with the centrist New America Foundation.

But even a temporary measure is likely to face some opposition because “it’s unrealistic to put something like that out there and expect it to ever go away,”

. . .

Then there’s the tricky question of subsidies. Medicare is heavily subsidized for people 65 and older. But to keep this from worsening Medicare’s fiscal woes, the Baucus proposal wouldn’t provide subsidies. The result would likely be far higher premiums than what those over 65 now pay. While the Baucus plan doesn’t give premium estimates, a similar proposal analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums would be $7,600 a year for those ages 62 to 64.

These are the phrases that floated around (dangerously: almost like a cartoon)  as I drove over to my parents house (AFTER I had coffee): Continue reading

Wednesday: We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck

Yesterday, The Onion put out another one of those “soon-to-be-classic” headlines: Nation Ready to be Lied to About Economy Again.  I find myself identifying with this guy who was quoted in the article:

“I don’t need to be constantly reminded that the lack of regulations on Wall Street compounded with failing institutions like AIG basically plunged the world economy into a global recession,” said 32-year-old office manager Alexis Harrington. “What I want is for someone to tell me with a straight face that the GDP is through the roof so that I can feel better and instantly forget what all these terms even mean.”

“For the first time in my life I know who the secretary of the treasury is,” Harrington continued. “And I don’t like it.”

Yes, indeedy, I know more about money than I ever wanted to and if I had any inkling that I would have to wade through this muck in my hipwaders I would have been swilling grain spiked beer every night with the rest of the business majors back in my college days.

Never fear!  According to Dana Milbank, our PBO is on the case.  Everything is all cool and groovy.  We don’t need to worry:

Yesterday’s news was good — almost supernaturally so.

The economy? Recovering.

The markets? Rallying.

Swine flu? Abating.

Drought? Ending.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff declared his confidence that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are well secured. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee declared his confidence that a massive health-care overhaul will be accomplished this year. Warren Buffett declared his confidence that the economy is “out of the quicksand.” And the Supreme Court was confident enough about the state of the nation to turn its attention to Janet Jackson’s breasts.

Call it good policy, as Democrats do, or beginner’s luck, as the last remaining Republicans do, but you can practically hear the nation collectively exhaling.

Well, I know I feel better except for:

  • The ex has been laid off making me the only working parent
  • The BFF and I are waiting to see if the research industry still has any interest in employing American scientists.  His company is merging and plans to lay off thousands; mine has a new CEO who has decided to slash research by 50%.  We should know this summer whether we still have jobs.
  • My brother was so afraid of being laid off he joined the army full time and moved 1500 miles away.
  • Another relative has been told by the major health insurer that she works for that it is dropping spouses from their own health insurance policies.  It will now cost an extra $500/month to cover him.  No, she isn’t getting a raise to cover it.
  • My favorite aunt, whose deceased husband used to work for a GM subsidiary, is waiting to see if her retirement benefits are going to be slashed.  She’s not exactly wealthy in the first place and this could really do her in.
  • Another aunt’s family furniture business has had to layoff long time, loyal employees because no one is buying sofas.  The business is really hurting.

So far, the only person *not* suffering is my mom, the Armageddon specialist, who is sitting on a big-old wad of cash and two pensions my dad left her. We are all planning to move in with her.

What does the Obama administration take us for?  Are we supposed to look around at all this misery and lowered standard of living and blame ourselves for what is happening?  All these people brought this on themselves?  They are responsible for losing jobs and insurance and pensions?  These are just the people *I* know personally in my own family.  Multiply this over and over again.  Believing in sweet little lies is not an option anymore.

There is one bright spot in this scenario, however.  It is a cautionary tale involving Jon Corzine.  Let’s put aside the fact that he sold us out at the convention, for which we have video evidence that I will happily play over and over again for any Hillary primary voter in NJ.  No, there are other reasons to fry Corzine’s ass.  He is the Obama prototype.  He vowed to do something about our insane and regressive property tax system when he took office.  And it’s not like there weren’t plenty of options.  Pennsylvania, which is right next door, isn’t forcing seniors out of their homes by yearly tax increases.  They have a combination of taxes that pay for stuff.  But no, Corzine didn’t want to hike income taxes on big business or on the uber wealthy in Bergen county.  He didn’t have the courage to impose an occupation tax.  And the only sales tax he implemented was one on iTunes purchases.  Theoretically, my taxes decreased by something like 20% since he took office.  But my property taxes, the only ones that count, go up anyway.  I am back to the same mortgage payments I had before I refinanced several years ago.  Go figure.

And all of this happened while he had a Democratic majority in the statehouse.  What was stopping all of them from getting together and making some tough decisions that rebalanced the tax burden from the poor to the rich?  Meanwhile, the economy is falling apart and there are a ton of finance people employed on Wall Street who commute to work from their homes in NJ.  They are losing their jobs.  Then there are the multitude of research people who for some reason the former CEO of Goldman Sachs governor continues to overlook.  NJ is home to major pharmaceutical and biotech research and Corzine has the gall to send out a campaign fundraising appeal letter to us happily announcing that Jack Welch has praised him for a job well done in NJ.  Our schools are underfunded, the pension system is a mess, our taxes too high and we’re supposed to feel good that cut-throat, uber salesman, social darwinist extraordinaire Jack Welch is high-fiving the governor.

Well, it’s all coming back to bite Corzine in the ass.  The NYTimes reports today that he is trailing one of his Republican challengers, former US Attorney Chris Christie.  In a latest Quinnipiac poll, Corzine is polling even with the *other* Republican in the race who is a typical GOP nutcase.  Think about that for a sec: New Jerseyans would *almost* prefer a flat taxing, pro-lifer to Corzine right now.  Never fear, Corzine’s team is planning to mess around with the Republican primary so the weakest primary candidate gets nominated.  Well, it’s not like his team has no experience with manipulating primary results.  Have you seen this video?  It’s our governor giving a big middle finger to every Hillary primary voter in NJ last year.  I mean, she only won this state by 10 points and didn’t manage to get even one single delegate.  Yes, I intend to keep bringing it up until everyone gets it.  No, I won’t get over it. I am mad as Hell that Corzine cavalierly disenfranchised me and millions of other New Jersey voters.  We didn’t give him permission to do that.

So, let this be a lesson to sunny, optimistic Barack Obama.  He has every opportunity in the world now to fix the economy for the working class, which would include all of us who do NOT work on Wall Street.  He’s got solid majorities in the House and Senate.  If he chooses to take a hands off approach on bills that would lower the principle on primary mortgages for example, or protect pensions or help Americans afford healthcare, he’s in for a rude awakening in 4 years when the rest of the country, like NJ, decides they’re sick of the happy talk from politicians with connections to the banking industry.

We might be slow but we’re not stupid.

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Your Breakfast Read, Served By The Confluence

Morning Read

The war against Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Already
It all started with this excerpt from an article in The Politico:

The top candidate, on paper, is Sotomayor, 54, a Clinton appointee to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She meets the empathy criteria, having grown up poor in the South Bronx, as well as Obama’s preference for sterling credentials, having graduated from Yale Law School.

Even before Souter’s retirement was formally announced, some in the GOP already say they’re gearing up for a fight with Obama over his nominee, particularly if he picks Sotomayor.

It didn’t take long for some to begin the GOP’s bidding.

Jeffrey Rosen started with a hatchet job in the “esteemed” TNR: The Case Against Sotomayor

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to a range of people who have worked with her, nearly all of them former law clerks for other judges on the Second Circuit or former federal prosecutors in New York. (…) Nearly all of them acknowledged that Sotomayor is a presumptive front-runner, but nearly none of them raved about her. They expressed questions about her temperament, her judicial craftsmanship, and most of all, her ability to provide an intellectual counterweight to the conservative justices, as well as a clear liberal alternative.

Wonkette had an excellent summary of the article:
Is Frontrunner Mexican Lady Judge A Dumb? Anonymous Sources Think So!

Matt Yglesias responded To Jeffrey Rosen after making a very intriguing catch in the piece:

I haven’t read enough of Sotomayor’s opinions to have a confident sense of them, nor have I talked to enough of Sotomayor’s detractors and supporters, to get a fully balanced picture of her strengths.

Eric Boehlert has a simple question for Jeff:

Isn’t it probably a good idea, journalism-wise, to do that before publishing a take-down piece that’s filled with anonymous quotes and is headlined, “The Case Against Sotomayor”?

Glenn Greenwald has a thorough analysis of Rosen’s article:
Jeffrey Rosen, TNR and the anonymous smears against Sonia Sotomayor

Watch Rebecca Traister smack down Jeff
Her Honor: Domineering and dumb

Political headaches
Barack Obama hints at tougher line on Israel

Pakistani President Tries to Assure U.S. on Taliban

Barack Obama to meet Afghanistan and Pakistan presidents

US investigating Afghan reports of 70 civilians killed

US, Karzai seek to mend fraying relationship at summit

Washington has been increasingly critical of the Afghan president. But with Karzai likely to win reelection this year, both sides will want to dial back the recriminations.

Economic headaches
Ben Bernanke says things are not as bad as they could have been
Bernanke’s Outlook a Bit Brighter

The U.S. economy seems to be contracting at a slower rate than it was a few months ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told lawmakers yesterday, delivering a message of optimism that was tempered by his forecast that the economy could perform well below its potential for some time to come.

Didn’t we hear for days that it was $10,000,000,000?
BofA Faces $35 Billion Gap

Glenn Hubbard, Hal Scott and Luigi Zingales join Richardson and Roubini
Banks Need Fewer Carrots and More Sticks

This is really scary
Latest round of Microsoft layoffs may not be last

Our daily GOP Quo Vadis
Republicans on the Hunt for Messengers as Party Moves to Reconnect With Voters

Palin joins old pal McCain to rescue GOP from extinction

D.C. determined to ruin my heterosexual marriage
D.C. to Recognize Gay Marriages

Congratulations, House Dems
Matthew Shepard Act

Latest from “Torturegate”
Torture Memos: Inquiry Suggests No ProsecutionsAn internal

Justice Department inquiry has concluded that Bush administration lawyers committed serious lapses of judgment in writing secret memorandums authorizing brutal interrogations but that they should not be prosecuted

How to Handle the Guantanamo Detainees(By Lindsay Graham and John McCain) So now beyond preemptive war there is preventive detention?

Third, preventive detention will continue to have a place in the war on terror . Under the law of war, the idea that an enemy combatant has to be tried or released is a false choice. Rather, it is well-established that combatants can be held off the battlefield as long as they present a military threat.

John Bolton is a Bag of Douche
Obama’s Prosecutions by Proxy

Chinese civil servants left fuming by order to smoke more

That wasn’t too long, was it?
After 1,000 years, women can see treasures of Mount Athos

For the first time in almost 1,000 years, many of the legendary Byzantine treasures of Mount Athos in Greece are on view to women

In today’s absolutely unnecessary gloating
Red Sox clearly better than Yanks
Let’s not even get in that painfully ridiculous New Yankee Stadium. We will have the next decades to laugh at it.

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